Median Heraldic Emblem and Flag Motif

This artifact was found via illegal digging in what is routinely described as "northwest Persia," and offered for purchase by an unidentified seller to the Metropolitan Museum in New York in 1953-54. That is all that is known of its provenance.

The dig's location, however, must have been at or near Hamadan. There are a number of compelling reasons to believe so. The style matches other similar items found in excavations in Hamadan--before or after. They all host this same imperial style that is often, and carelessly described as "Achaemenian" style. If anything, it is the Achaemenians who inherited "their" style from their Median forebears. 

The style is clearly Median due to the horns worn by the lions. The curly horns are those of mountain goats of the Zagors region, NOT those of a bull used commonly by the Zoroastrian Persians. The heavy weight of the peace preclude it from being worn anywhere by a person. Way too heavy and large. It is a heraldic motif sewn into a leather flag by the late Medians. 

All the same, the five disks represent the five kings of Median dynasty as well as the five tribes of Medes (excluding the Zig of Atropatene) as listed later on (and inaccurately) by Herodotus. The two lions standing on their hind legs represent the unification under king Cyaxares of two Medias: the Media Atropatene and Magna Media.

Had this item been dug up far away from Hamadan--a center for legal and illegal trade in archaeological artifacts--it would have been doubtlessly melted down and turned into modern jewelry for sale. The item is quite large and heavy and large, and makes for a good "melt item" if not sold to those art Hamadani art merchants for its higher artistic/historic value. In fact, the said merchants themselves would organize bands of illegal diggers to poke around for such things that could be sold to Western buyers.

Beyond a reasonable doubt, this item is a Median emblem, originally installed on a supporting medium for display. It is far too heavy and oversized (H. 13.6 cm, W. 9.8 cm/ H 5.44 inches,W3.92 inch, and weighs over half a kilogram/one pound) for any item of clothing to host it. It is a ceremonial, emblem containing commemorative/historical Median symbols of unification


Prof M.R. Izady, The First International Conference on Kurdish History, Berlin: Kurdish Institute of Berlin, 1995



Source at the NY Museum